10/30/2009 Magazine Staff

Saturday Afternoon in the Park with F&M

The events read like a post-college syllabus from a liberal arts institution: plays, science museums, art exhibitions, sporting events, lectures, wine-tastings and symposiums. Franklin & Marshall's Regional Chapter Program has found a way to offer events that appeal to alumni of all ages and interests.

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For three years, the program has been gaining momentum and building pockets of F&M communities across the country in 18 chapters that range from the 4,000-plus alumni and parent bases in New York and Philadelphia to the 700 in Southern California and 150 in northern Texas. The program now has an international flavor as well with the recent founding of a London chapter.

The Regional Chapter Program is a collaboration between the more than 200 alumni volunteers on chapter councils and the College's Alumni Relations Office. They work together to brainstorm, organize and execute events.

"The events that have a lifelong-learning component, such as cultural or historical events, have a strong connection with our alumni and parents," says Aimee Achorn, F&M's assistant director of alumni relations, who oversees the chapters. "The events give people a unique view into their hometowns with special access through F&M connections."

This past year more than 3,500 alumni, family, parents and friends attended 87 events. The formula for success is an active chapter committee, a dose of F&M alumni or faculty expertise and an insider's connection to a local event, says Amy Rose Francek '97 of the Philadelphia chapter. "We aim to provide unique venues and exclusive programming to give F&M alumni one-of-a-kind experiences," she says.

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To appeal to a broad alumni base, diverse programming is critical. "What works for a young grad is connecting with peers; what works for a 30-something with kids is entertaining the kids while reconnecting; what works for an empty nester is sophisticated programming such as the arts or theater," says Rich Barth '71, former Alumni Board president who attends Washington, D.C., events. "And the one unifying theme that brings out all market segments is engaging faculty or alumni speaking on a germane topic."

Highlighting Barth's point was the Forum on Presidential Politics that took place in fall 2007. This watershed event featured four prominent F&M alumni from the political world and traveled to four cities (Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, New York City and Lancaster), drawing more than 1,000 attendees.

By the Numbers

Number of chapters: 18 in the United States and one in London

Largest chapter: Metro New York has about 4,800 alumni, parents and friends

Smallest chapter: Northern Texas includes about 150 alumni, parents and friends

Number of events held July 2008 to June 2009: 87

Number of attendees '08-'09: 3,667

Largest regional event ever: Forum on Presidential Politics in New York City on Jan. 31, 2008, drew 502 alumni, family and friends

F&M alumni who volunteer on chapter committees: 200
In addition to providing education and entertainment, regional chapters are a vital component of the College's ongoing efforts to keep alumni engaged with their alma mater.

"Quality events instill a sense of pride in the alumni who attend," says Catherine Jasons '76 of the Philadelphia chapter. "The chapter program demonstrates to alumni across the country that F&M values their continuing involvement with the College."

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For many alumni, especially those far from Lancaster, these events are their only personal link to F&M. Many alumni cannot return to campus on a consistent basis, so these events bring the College to them. "The program is so important because it gives alumni a sense of still belonging to the F&M community," says Lisa Brooks '85 of the Gulf Coast Texas chapter.

As well as engaging F&M alumni, the chapters also fuel that blue-and-white pride. "I believe in the College's vision of an engaged and active alumni network," says Ed Beshers '07 of the Central Pa. chapter. "I'm working to help promote the idea, and create the reality, that an acceptance letter to F&M means lifelong membership in a group of exceptional individuals."

For more information about chapters or to register for an event, visit www.fandm.edu/alumni.
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